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TRACK LIST: 1. On My Own 7:00 2. Just Before Dawn 7:11 3. For Better Days 4:55 4. This Side of Paradise 4:48 5. Match Made Up 8:04 6. Meltdown Marvin 4:58 7. In Our Times 1:13 8. Soundbite Symphony 8:17 9. Men at Arms 1:31 10. Novska 4:33 All tracks: by Natural Science, except 10: S. Balduk / Roy Wassink. All lyrics: by Roy Wassink. LINE-UP: Patrick Groot Nuelend - keyboards Geert Helf - guitars Ralph Ebbers - drums Vinsent Wassink - basses Roy Wassink - vocals Produced & engineered by M. Braak & Natural Science. Recorded & mixed at "Harrow", Holland.
Prolusion. "This Side of Paradise" is the debut of Natural Science from the Netherlands.
Synopsis. This is one of the those lucky bands that, while being inspired by Dream Theater, are capable of avoiding any cliches in their music and, this way, not to enlarge the ranks of countless imitators of the contemporary Prog-Metal heroes. Nevertheless, there are some stylistic similarities between "This Side of Paradise" and Dream Theater's latest, "Train of Thought", which is in many ways their heaviest album to date, featuring a lot of dense, Cathedral Metal-related structures. Which, however, means almost nothing as a matter of fact. Taking into account that both of the albums were released practically simultaneously, everyone can be certain that these Dutch guys just could not have any opportunity to listen to "Train of Thought" before they've started working on their material or even during their work on it. Well, now, after you got some idea of what, at least approximately, you can expect from "This Side of Paradise", I feel free to tell you about some particularities of the album. So, the principal direction is a classic contemporary Prog-Metal or Progressive Cathedral Metal with dueling solos of guitar and synthesizer at the helm of intensive arrangements, the parts of piano and strings leading in quieter moments, rather expressive vocals, and all the other trademarks of the genre. The 'necessary' ballads are here as well: the album's title track and Novska (4 & 10). Structurally, they're practically not unlike the other songs and are both heavy and symphonic, though of course, they are much less intricate and, on the other hand, much more melodically pronounced. The short tracks In Our Times and Men at Arms (7 & 9) are just parts of Soundbite Symphony (8), and since I am already acquainted with the material, I can allow myself to wonder why the song has been divided into three parts. It's most likely in order to have just ten tracks on the CD. Otherwise it is hardly justified:-).
Conclusion. As it often occurs in such cases, nothing comes to my mind but a banality, for which I am sorry. Well, "This Side of Paradise" is a very promising debut. Recommended to the fans of Dream Theater, Symphony X, etc. In other words, I am not deaf not to notice the value of the album, and yet, I wouldn't say that I am very impressed with it either. Though, to be frank with you, my attitude towards Dream Theater and all the other contemporary Prog-Metal 'classicists' has been practically the same since 2000 or so.
VM: March 12, 2004
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